Monday, December 28, 2009

VIDEO: Tonight's successful Proton-M launch

An ILS Proton-M rocket launches the DirecTV-12 satellite tonight.

Russian Proton rocket launches DirecTV satellite

A new satellite which will increase the amount of high definition channels DirecTV offers arrived in orbit tonight, and will spend the next several hours moving into a permanent position to service the United States this spring.

An International Launch Services Proton-M rocket lifted-off on time at 7:22 pm EST tonight (0022 GMT Tuesday morning) from a chilly pad 39 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome and into an overcast sky.

The silver 191-foot tall Proton launched into the cold night sky on the final space shot of 2009, and flew eastward out of Kazakhstan and over Mongolia. Two minutes into the flight, the first stage separated from the upper stage.

Spacecraft separation is planned for 4:32 am EST (3:32 pm Baikonur time) on Tuesday.

The seventh ILS Proton launch of the year carried the Boeing-built DirecTV 12 will provide expanded high definition channels for the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii.

The satellite will use two huge Ka-band refelctors -- each measuring nearly 3 meters in diameter -- for the reception and transmission of over 200 cable channels.

Since 1994, Boeing has built 11 satellites for DirecTV.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Proton-M prepares for Monday night launch

On a cold, frosty Christmas morning at the Yuzhny Space Center in Kazakhstan, a Russian Proton-M rocket was transfered to launch pad 39 in preparation for it's night launch on the morning of December 29th (local time).

The snow covered space center was a beautiful touch to a desert region as the Proton was moved by railway. Thank-you to S.Sergeev at Yuzhny for the great images and read our story below) will carry the prelaunch through ascent LIVE beginning at 7PM EST on Monday evening (0:00 GMT on Tuesday morning).

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Russian Proton to Launch DirecTV Satellite Monday

A Russian rocket will deliver to orbit a telecommunications satellite for the Americas next week as the final earth launch of the year.

A new DirecTV satellite will support broader high definition broadcasts to the United States, and increase the amount of HD channels DirecTV carries. Built by Boeing Space, the spacecraft will orbit in geostationary orbit, and will support an additional 200-plus HD channels for the broadcast company.

Liftoff of the Proton M rocket (UR-500) with the DirecTV-12 satellite is planned for December 28th at 7:22 pm EST (0022 GMT Dec. 29) from pad 39 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

The 1.55 million pound Proton M's launch profile will see the rocket fly eastward over Kazakhstan, neighboring Mongolia and eastern China before sailing over the Korean peninsula and southern Japan. It's orbital inclination will then carry it over the southern Pacific Ocean and then up toward South America.

The Proton's first stage -- which supports six liquid fueled RD-276 engines and a core engine -- will burn from launch until just prior to stage separation at T+2 minutes. The second stage will then burn three RD-0210 engines for the next 206 seconds of the flight. The rocket's third stage will next take over to carry the satellite into low earth orbit.

A series of five burns will then raise the craft's orbit ever higher to it's geo-transfer orbit.

Spacecraft separation from it's kick motor is scheduled to occur nine hours, ten minutes post-launch over southern Somalia, Africa, in an initial orbit of 3,181 x 22,236 miles.

Designed to operate for 15 years, the DirecTV satellite will become operational by March and operate over the equator at a planned position of 102.8 west longitude.

The 131-transponder DirecTV-12 spacecraft was mated to the Proton's adapter on December 13. A day later, the adapter was then mated to the rocket's Breeze-M upper stage, according to International Launch Services.

Monday's launch will be the seventh ILS Proton launch of 2009, and only the 56th Proton launch for ILS overall.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Crew of Five aboard Space Station

Carrying a small decorated Christmas tree and wearing a red Santa cap, Soyuz commander Kotov entered the space station at 7:35 pm EST tonight, followed by elf's Creamer and Noguchi, and beginning their six month stay in space.

Hatch opening occurred at 7:30 pm this evening (3:30 am Moscow time) as the station passed 220 miles above the central Atlantic Ocean.

As quickly as the crew of entered the orbital outpost, they were ordered back inside their newly arrived Soyuz TMA-17 craft so that Russia's Mission Control could properly video record the crew's ingress into the station.

Minutes later, Mission Control in Moscow told the crew to go back again and to video record the crew's holiday dressed entrance into the space station for a third time.

As the minutes then went by with the Soyuz crew inside their space taxi again, the station's commander Jeff Williams and flight engineer Max Surave began to get a bit impatient with the staging of the ceremony.

"If we wait to much longer then the guys will get their feelings hurt and not want to come out," Surave radioed Moscow.

New crew members arrive at Space Station

Three new crew members arrived at their port-of-call tonight as a Russian Soyuz craft docked with earth's orbital outpost.

A Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft docked with the Russian Zarya section of the International Space Station at 5:48:20 pm EST (1:48 am Moscow time) this evening 220 miles off the east coast of southern Brazil.

"Welcome to station, guys, your home for six months," Williams stated ten minutes later.

Soyuz commander Oleg V. Kotov brought the craft into a slow approach with the station to 150 meters prior to docking. An automatic docking system piloted the Soyuz to Zarya earth-facing port minutes ahead of schedule.

Joining Kotov inside the Soyuz is American astronaut Timothy J. Creamer and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi. All three are just two days into their six month journey upon the ocean of space.

The space trio will join current station crew members,
Expedition 22 Commander Jeffery Williams and Flight Engineer Maxim Suraev, who have been aboard the space station since October 2.

Kotov, who will serve as flight engineer during the Expedition 22, and in March assume the title of station commander as the Expedition 23 timeline begins with the Soyuz TMA16 undocking on March 18th.

Russian cosmonauts Suraev and Kotov on January 14 will perform a spacewalk and complete some work outside of the Poisk module which is connected to the Zvezda module.

Kotov, Creamer and
Noguchi will undock from station aboard the Soyuz TMA 17 for the trip back to earth this May.

Hatch opening could occur as early as 7:35 pm EST.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Expedition 22 crew headed for Space Station

images via NASA & energia

The 22nd expedition crew is bound for the International Space Station.

On a beautiful, cold evening in Kazakhstan at the Baikonur Cosmodrome tonight, an American, Russian and Japanese astronaut boarded their Soyuz spacecraft and lifted-off toward a holiday link-up with earth's orbital outpost in space.

As a crescent Moon hung over the space center, American astronaut Timothy (T.J.) Creamer, Russian cosmonaut Oleg V. Kotov and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi boarded their Soyuz TMA-17 craft perched a top a Soyuz FG LV rocket at pad 1 two hours before launch.

As the countdown reached zero, fuel and support arms retracted away from the 151-foot tall rocket. The Soyuz FG's four liquid fueled boosters and core main engine ignited on time launching the international crew of three upward at 4:52 pm EST (2152 GMT) from it's pad.

As the Soyuz launched, the Space Station flew 224 statue miles over the southern coast of Chilie, South America.

Two minutes into the rocket's climb to orbit, the boosters emptied their fuel and were jettisoned. Seven minutes later, the craft was in low earth orbit of 125 statue miles.

Creamer is making his first trip into space, while Kotov and Noguchi are each making their second visit to the space station.

After completing 34 orbits of the earth, the Soyuz TMA17 will make a slow approach to the station and dock to the Russian Zarya module on Tuesday. Docking time is planned for 5:54 pm EST (1:54 am Moscow time), howe
ver docking will likely happen a few minutes earlier than planned based on the quickness of their orbital rendezvous.

Once docked, the trio will join
Expedition 22 Commander Jeffery Williams and Flight Engineer Maxim Suraev who have been aboard the space station since October 2.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Russian Soyuz to carry new crew to Station

The two-man crew of the International Space Station will receive three new crew mates in a few days as a Russian Space Agency Soyuz rocket prepares for launch on Sunday.

American Jeffery Williams and Russian Maxim Suraev have been alone 222 miles above earth aboard the station for the last few weeks, and they are looking forward to the Soyuz's arrival on Tuesday.

American astronaut T.J. Creamer, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi will begin a six month voyage upon the vast ocean of space as members of both the station's Expedition 22 and 23 crews.

The Soyuz FG rocket (above, on Dec. 18) with the Soyuz TMA 17 spacecraft will lift-off on Sunday at 4:52 pm EST, (2152 GMT) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

After a two day orbital chase to catch up with the space station, the TMA 17 will slowly move in and dock with the PIERS segment at 5:54 pmEST (22:54 GMT) on Tuesday.

Included with the international crew of three will be fresh supplies such as food, water, experiments, and small hardware in support of station operations.

Between now and February, the orbital outpost will see a lot of activity as the Soyuz docks; an unmanned Russian Progress 36P cargo ship docks on Feb. 5; and the space shuttle Endeavour arrives on Feb. 9 with the massive Tranquility module and the Cupola section. will carry the launch LIVE beginning at 4PM EST (2100 GMT) on Sunday. Follow us via Twitter via @spacelaunchnews.

Friday, December 18, 2009

VIDEO: Ariane 5 Launches HELIOS 2B Today

VIDEO: Today's Ariane 5 launch from Kourou, SA with HELIOS 2B.

Twice delayed Ariane 5 Successfully Launches

Just in time for the Holidays, an Ariane 5 lifted-off from South America today giving Arianespace a celebration as they conclude the year with seven successful flights and their 30th year in the launch business.

The Ariane 5 GS fired it's core engine and rocket boosters and launched from pad ELA-3 at the Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana at 11:26:07 am EST, today (1626 GMT) into a blue sky.

The 151-foot heavy lift launcher rose with it's mighty Vulcain 1B main engine and three solid fueled boosters north out over the Atlantic waters.

This 193rd Ariane rocket sat thru two launch scrubs in the last two weeks due to technical issues.

Today's launch was the third "GS" configured Ariane 5 rocket, the previous two GS flights having flown in 2007.

The HELIOS 2B was deployed into a Sun-synchronous polar orbit as the observatory orbits the earth from pole to pole. This orbital path will allow for it to have a larger coverage region of the globe.

The satellite will be used by multiple European counties to create maps
of uncharted regions and create 3-D landscape images for better intelligence for the countries of France, Greece, Belgium, Italy and Spain.

HELIOS was built by several European aerospace companies such as Thales Alenia Space, with EADS Astrium as the prime contractor.

Ariane 5's launch today was the 35th back-to-back successful launch of an Ariane 5; and also marked it's 49th flight with the 50th flight now planned for February.

Ariane 5 mission to try again Today

A third launch try is underway at the Spaceport in Kourou, South America this morning as the launch team works to launch an Ariane 5 on a record seventh flight in one calendar year.

Launch time is planned for 11:26:07 am EST, and there is no launch window for this precise French military mission.

A launch attempt of the 150-foot rocket on Thursday was thwarted in the final six minutes of the count by an unknown technical issue.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ariane 5's seventh launch of '09 set for Thursday

A European Space Agency rocket is set to carry a French military observation satellite into earth orbit on Thursday following a one week launch delay due to an issue with the rocket's core stage liquid helium plumbing.

The HELIOS 2B satellite was built for the French Ministry of Defense, and will orbit the earth as a military observatory to keep track of world activities.

The Ariane 5 GS rocket is set to make it's seventh launch of the year from the Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on Thursday, December 17 at 11:26:07 am EST.

Ariane 5 will launch from the northern South American coastline and steer north-northeast out over the northern Atlantic Ocean. Ariane's second stage will then carry the satellite over the eastern section of Quebec, Canada and up the latitudes toward the north pole region at T+26 minutes, 33 seconds.

Spacecraft separation should occur on time at 12:25:23 pm EST, near western Australia.

The HELIOS 2B will be deployed into a Sun-synchronous polar orbit. As the observation satellite orbits the earth from pole to pole, it will have a larger coverage region of the globe.

The satellite will wear many hats as it maps uncharted regions and create 3-D landscape images for better intelligence for the countries of France, Greece, Belgium, Italy and Spain.

HELIOS was built by several European aerospace companies such as Thales Alenia Space, with EADS Astrium as the prime contractor.

Ariane 5 will mark it's 49th launch on Thursday; and this will also mark the 193rd Ariane rocket flight

Monday, December 14, 2009

Infrared Telescope launches to study the Universe

images NASA/VAFB

A new NASA telescope with the ability to detect faint light from stars and other bodies in the universe departed earth this morning to begin a seven month mission to learn more about our celestrial neighbors.

A United Launch Alliance Delta II-7320 rocket lifted-off under a cloudy California sky this morning at 6:09:33 am PST (9:09 am EST) from Vandenberg Air Force Base, carrying aloft NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer telescope.

Powered by three solid rocket boosters and a core stage main engine, the Delta II launched into the predawn sky and into a southern trajectory out over the Pacific Ocean.

As the Delta raced to take WISE into polar orbit, it's three boosters emptied their propellant 64 seconds into the launch at an altitude of 9 nautical miles, and 35 seconds later were dropped from the sides of the rocket as it moved just over two times the speed of sound.

Following main stage separation and several second stage burns, the WISE spacecraft left the rocket to begin it's own journey of discovery as it raced over northwestern Madagascar at 7:04:53 am PST at a speed of Mach 22.3.

Once WISE is operational in a few weeks it will begin to conduct surveys of the earth's night. Using it's very sensitive infrared telescope, WISE will be able to detect faint light levels in the Universe such as brown dwarfs; luminous galaxies; and distant lights as WISE provides a astronomical road map for the soon to be launched James Webb space telescope.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

NASA WISE infrared telescope to Launch Monday

A new NASA satellite will begin a six month long mission this weekend as it aims it's infrared telescope out toward deep space and peers out to uncover new galaxies, asteroids and stars.

Lift-off of a United Launch Alliance Delta II-7320 rocket has been rescheduled for Monday, December 11th at 9:09:36 am EST, from Vandenberg, AFB in California. The launch window is 14 minutes.

The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) will scan our section of the universe with it's very sensitive IR telescope looking for a glow ommitted from the millions of objects near to Earth and thousands of light years away.

Brown dwarf stars are dim stars which NASA hopes will be seen with greater quality as WISE takes a infared image and scientists back on earth study the glow of the object.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

VIDEO: Tonight's Delta IV ULA Launch Highlights

Delta IV launches from Cape Canaveral tonight @ 8:47 pm EST.

Delta IV Launches Advanced Air Force Satellite

A United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket waited out multiple launch delays this week and lifted-off at the last minute tonight on a successful flight to deliver an advanced military communications satellite into orbit.

Weather and a technical glitch delayed this 11th launch of a Delta IV by several days, and again high winds pushed the launch time this evening from the the first minute of the launch window to the final minute.

The third Delta IV launch of the year ignited her main core engine and four solid rocket boosters and departed Florida's Space Coast at 8:47 pm EST, with the Air Force's Wideband Global SATCOM 3 satellite.

As the white and rust-orange colored Delta IV climbed higher into the dark Atlantic sky, the four rocket boosters -- having burned it's propellant -- dropped two at a time from the core main stage 104 seconds into the flight. The vehicle was passing through 22 nautical miles altitude at the time.

The RS-68 main engine continued it's burn for another two minutes & 25 seconds as it flew south eastward out over the Atlantic Ocean and toward the west coast of central Africa.

The WGS-3 separated from the Delta's upper stage on time as it flew 1,415 nm over northeastern Angola, Africa at 9:27:39 pm.

The WGS-3 is more than a high tech communications relay satellite, but a high speed data transfer relay. It will be able to transmit data packets at speeds between 2.4 and 3.6 gigabytes per second.

The spacecraft will ba able to cover 19 regions of the eastern hemisphere, and will operate in the 500 Mhz X-band and the 1 GHz of the Ka-band.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Air Force High Speed Satellite set for Launch

A highly advanced United States military communications satellite will head into orbit tonight aboard a Delta IV rocket, giving the troops on ground and in the air a faster data network to communicate.

The Wideband Global SATCOM 3, or WGS-3, is the third in a series of space-based communication relays to assist field troops in the middle eastern regions and Afghanistan.

A United Launch Alliance Delta IV is scheduled to launch from complex 37 here at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Saturday at 7:23 pm EST. The launch window is open for 83 minutes.

This Delta IV- M(edium) flight will launch with four solid rocket boosters and a RS-68 engine in the core of the rocket.

The RS engine will ignite five seconds before T-0, followed by the four boosters igniting at zero.

The 13,200-pound spacecraft will fly into a supersynchronous transfer orbit of 237 x 36,167 nautical miles following separation from the Delta's upper stage. The satellite's separation will take place over northern Madagascar at T+40 minutes, 53 seconds into the flight. Orbital inclination will be 24 degrees.

The WGS-3 is more than a high tech communications relay satellite, but a high speed data transfer relay. It will be able to transmit data packets at speeds between 2.4 and 3.6 gigabytes per second.

The spacecraft will ba able to cover 19 regions of the eastern hemisphere, and will operate in the 500 Mhz X-band and the 1 GHz of the Ka-band.

This weekend's launch will mark the 11th launch of a Delta IV rocket since it's first flight in November 2002.

This Delta IV flight will also mark the 36th launch of a ULA supported flight in the last 36 months. ULA was formed in December 2006 with the coming together of Lockheed Martin and The Boeing Company. ULA supports both Delta II & IV and Atlas V launch campaigns. will cover the launch of the Delta IV beginning at 6:55 pm EST, on Saturday. Also, follow us via Twitter: @spacelaunchnews for live updates to your phone.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Delta IV launch scrubbed due to Weather

Launch of a Delta IV rocket was scrubbed this evening due to mid-level clouds and a technical issue at the pad here on America's Space Coast.

The plan now is to work toward a new launch try on Friday evening at 7:22 pm EST -- the opening of an 83-minute launch window.

The launch team waited through the entire 81-minute launch window before making the call to stand down for the night at 8:34 pm EST. Weather does not look favorable for tomorrow evening as a weather system continues to bring rain and low clouds to the Cape Canaveral region.

A new high speed communications satellite for the United States Air Force is the payload for this flight.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Soyuz TMA15 Undocks from Space Station

A Russian Soyuz spacecraft departed the International Space Station with a crew of three following a six month stay, leaving the station a quieter place to live and work.

Orbiting the earth from 220 miles over deep southern Russia near eastern Mongolia, Belgian Frank De Winne, Canadian Robert Thirsk and Russian Roman Romanenko separated from the station at 10:56 pm EST, this evening (9:56 am Dec. 1st Kazakhstan time).

The trio's departure means that the station's crew size has dwindled down to two.

Not since July 2006 have their been just two crew members manning the orbital outpost. Last week, twelve humans were working and living on the station while Atlantis was docked on her resupply mission.

Following several hours of rocket firings to separate away from the station and place the Soyuz in it's proper alignment for landing, the spacecraft is scheduled to touchdown 80 Km north of the town of Arkalyk in central Kazakhstan at 2:15 am EST, December 1.

Tuesday morning's Soyuz landing will be the first Soyuz to land in Kazakhstan in the month of December since 1990 when the Soyuz 10 spacecraft landed following a mission to the MIR space station.

A few days before Christmas, the space station will receive new residents as the current two man Expedition 22 crew of American Jeff Williams and Russian
Max Suraev welcome the Soyuz TMA 17's crew of three: Russian Oleg Kotov, American T.J. Creamer, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Friday, November 27, 2009

VIDEO: Atlantis lands at KSC this morning

VIDEO: Atlantis returns home to KSC today.

Atlantis Returns Home to America's Spaceport

The space shuttle Atlantis left earth orbit and dropped through cold blue Florida skies this morning following an eleven day resupply flight to the International Space Station.

In one of the best weather days along America's Space Coast for a shuttle landing, Atlantis was given the "Go" for her return at 8:14 am EST based on light winds and no cloud cover in the region.

Commander Charles Hobaugh and pilot Barry E. Wilmore donned their entry suits and took their seats two hours before landing to maneuver the spacecraft to a precise window for leaving orbit for their trip home. The seven member crew also includes Randy Bresnik, Leland Melvin, Michael Foreman, Robert Satcher and Nicole Stott.

Atlantis' twin engines began firing for about 3 minutes at 8:37 am to slow the orbiter down by 211 mph, and begin her free fall descent to the Kennedy Space Center.

"You couldn't have picked a clearer day", Hobaugh radioed to Houston's Mission Control as he observed the runway in sight (above).

Flying without power at a speed of 224 mph, Atlantis' main gear slammed onto runway 33 here at America's Spaceport at 9:44:23 am EST, concluding a successful resupply mission to earth's orbital outpost in space. Her wheels came to a stop 42 seconds later.

The STS-129 mission elapsed time at wheels stop was set at T+10 days, 19 hours, 16 minutes and 55 seconds -- one of the shortest shuttle flight's in recent history.

Atlantis' 31st flight covered 4,490,138 miles since her November 16 launch.

For crew member Stott, she returns home following 91 days in space -- 86 spent living aboard the space station as a flight engineer of Expedition 21.

For mission specialist Bresnik, this flight mark several joyous marks -- both in space and back home near Houston. Bresnik made a couple of spacewalks earlier this week, and at the same time, his wife gave birth last Saturday night to a daughter. He received word of the birth announcement following one of his spacewalks.

Atlantis spent seven days docked to the station as her crew resupplied both the inside with fresh food, experiments and supplies; and performed three spacewalks to install new equipment and spare parts on the outside of the outpost.

NASA's 129th space shuttle flight marked the 31st flight to the space station.

Today's landing now means that there is only one flight left for NASA's fourth space shuttle orbiter. Atlantis final mission into space is set for this May on a resupply flight to the station. Atlantis first flew twenty-four years ago on a military DoD flight, STS-51-J.

There are also only five more space shuttle flights left. The next mission is currently planned for February 4th on a flight to deliver the Tranquility module to the station.

Atlantis nears a Blue Sky Florida Landing Today

The seven member crew of the space shuttle Atlantis are in their final hours of flight as they finish preparations for the ship's return to a Florida landing this morning.

Commander Charles Hobaugh and pilot Barry E. Wilmore will don their orange entry suits first at 7AM EST and begin to maneuver Atlantis to the proper alignment for her deorbit burn.

The burn is planned for 8:37 am and will slow Atlantis down by about 350 mph to begin her drop out of earth orbit.

Landing of the 129th space shuttle flight is set for 9:44 am on runway 33 here at the Kennedy Space Center's shuttle landing facility.

Today marks six of the crew members 12th day in space, however it's a special homecoming for the seventh member of the crew -- Nicole Stott.

Stott has spent three months living and working aboard the International Space Station since arriving on an August shuttle flight. Total today, Stott will have spent 91 days in space. She is due to return to the space station this September aboard the last planned space shuttle flight.

Atlantis will close her payload bay doors around 6:10 am, and the crew will also take in fluids to help condition their bodies for the dynamics of reentry and landing back in a 1G environment.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Atlantis' crew enjoys Thanksgiving in Space

On their final full day in space, the crew of the space shuttle Atlantis is spending a busy Thanksgiving Day in space today as they prepare for landing day on Friday morning.

The seven member crew of the 31st flight of Atlantis is only the seventh space shuttle flight to orbit the earth during the traditional holiday of thanks.

"As we orbit the Earth every 90 minutes, we would like to wish you a very happy Thanksgiving", Atlantis' commander Charles Hobaugh stated in a message to Americans this morning. The entire crew then gave a "Happy Thanksgiving" cheer.

Earlier this morning, Mission Control near Houston, Texas included in their technical messages the above instructions to the crew of how to prepare a turkey. The instructions were delivered in the same tech jargon as they would discuss how a spacecraft should maneuver. (Click the image for a larger view.)

Aboard the International Space Station, several crew members of the Expedition 21 crew will have turkey, stuffing, green bean and candy yams to celebrate the holiday. Station commander Jeffery Williams is the only American of the now five crew members.

Atlantis will spend today packing and stowing equipment for Friday's return home to the Kennedy Space Center. Hobaugh and pilot Barry Wilmore will test fire select thrusters on the ship as well as power-up and test the elevon, rudders and body flap.

Beginning at 9:13 am, Atlantis' crew will give three Thanksgiving television interviews, including a Tampa Bay station which is the home of returning station astronaut Nicole Stott who has spent some 90 days in space.

Atlantis undocked from the space station yesterday and are returning 2,100 pounds of cargo to earth stored on the middeck of the orbiter.

Touchdown is planned for 9:44 am EST tomorrow on Runway 33 here at Kennedy. NASA's 129th space shuttle flight will perform a deorbit burn at 8:36 am, which will slow the ship down by around 300 mph to begin it's drop out of orbit.

A second landing opportunity at KSC could occur if weather did not corporate for the first opp with a touchdown at 11:19 am. Weather is expected to be great for the first opportunity. will carry the landing LIVE, as we carry each mission Live from prelaunch to post-landing. Follow us via Twitter: @spacelaunchnews.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Atlantis Departs newly resupplied Space Station

The space shuttle Atlantis separated from the International Space Station this morning following one week of docked operations to resupply and add new equipment to the huge complex.

Atlantis' pilot Barry Wilmore gave a control stick on the aft flight deck a slight nudge and the orbiter undocked from the station at 4:53 am EST this morning as the two crafts flew 216 miles above the area north of New Guinea.

Atlantis spent six days, 17 hours docked with earth's orbital outpost, as the crew performed three spacewalks to install new equipment such as a 1,200-pound oxygen tank; and unloaded 37,000 pounds of food, clothes and fuel to resupply the station. Atlantis is also bringing home a load of garbage from station to clear room for the new equipment. The shuttle also gave the station a much needed altitude boost and attitude change.

Commanded by veteran astronaut Charles Hobaugh, Atlantis' crew includes Wilmore, Leland Melvin, Michael Foreman, Robert Satcher and Brandy BResnik. Atlantis is also bringing home space station flight engineer Nicole Stott who spent 87 days aboard the outpost.

Atlantis' STS-129 mission to the space station was the 31st by a space shuttle, and the 31st flight by Atlantis.

Atlantis is scheduled to land back at the Kennedy Space Center at the start of her 172nd orbit of the flight at 9:44 am EST, on Friday, Nov. 27th.

Monday, November 23, 2009

VIDEO: Atlas 5 launches into a beautiful morning

VIDEO: Atlas 5 successfully launches Intelsat 14 today.

Atlas 5 Lifts-off following delay due to Winds

A beautiful night launch illuminated America's Space Coast this morning following a 65 minute delay due to high upper level winds over the area.

Launch of the United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 occurred at 1:55:01 am EST, this morning from launch complex 41 here at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Through Sunday night, the launch team marched toward a 12:50 am lift-off. However, high winds between 22,000 to 25,000 feet created concern as weather officials released several weather balloons checking for any changes in the winds.

The white and bronze Atlas rocket steered out over the dark waters of the Atlantic Ocean and into a star filled sky.

Powered by three solid rocket boosters and a kerosene RD-180 core engine, the Atlas steered southeast as it gained altitude. Ninety-two seconds into the flight, the SRB's ended their job with burnout. Forty seconds later, the three boosters separated from the core stage.

The primary payload of this 19th flight of an Atlas 5 is the Space Systems/Loral-built Intelsat 14 communications spacecraft which will provide television and high speed data for the America's, Europe and Africa.

Following several burns and a coast phase, the Atlas' upper stage released Intelsat 14 while over the southeastern Indian Ocean at 3:53 am EST.

Intelsat 14 will replace the aging Intelsat 1R, according to ULA. The 12,300 pound satellite will operate from a position over the equator at 45 degrees West.

This morning's launch marked the 601st Atlas flight since the late 1950's with half of those occurring here at Cape Canaveral.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

ULA Atlas 5 to boost Intelsat 14 Satellite

A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket will deliver an advanced communications payload into geostationary orbit next week, and will mark the final Atlas flight of the year.

Launch of the fifth Atlas 5-431 mission of 2009 is planned for 12:50:01 am EST, on November 23 from launch complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The launch window closes at 2:20 am.

A previous launch try on November 14 was cancelled due to an electrical issue on the bronze core, or first stage, booster.

Once launched, the bronze and white rocket with three strap-on solid rocket boosters, will carry the Intelsat and a secondary DoD payload through the dynamics of launch like a farmer with a basket of eggs -- gently. The rocket's flight path will carry it toward the southeast out over the central to southern Atlantic Ocean.

Fifty seconds into the flight, the rocket will steer through MAX-Q, when the forces of the Atlas pushing forward meet up with the dense atmosphere.

Two minutes, eight seconds into the flight, the trio of SRB's will separate from the bronze core first stage. The first stage's RD-180 engine will continued the rocket's ascent for another two minutes and 22 seconds.

The Atlas will carry into geostationary orbit the Intelsat 14 satellite which was built by Space Systems/Loral. A second satellite called the Internet Router in Space (IRIS) project will be a test bed for future military space based communications.

Intelsat 14 will provide both audio and video service to America, Europe and Africa with it's 40 C-band and 22 ku-Band antennas.

Friday, November 06, 2009

New Russian Poisk Module set for Launch

A new Russian docking module is destined to become a critical piece for the International Space Station as the country delivers a multifaceted docking port in support of space travel during the next decade.

The Russian Space Agency's Mini Research Module-2, or Poisk, will dock to the station's Zvezda service module two days following launch. It will serve as a docking port for Russian Soyuz and Progress spacecraft; will support future Russian spacewalks from it's 3-foot wide airlock; and act as a spare room for some of the crew's equipment in support of docking or spacewalks.

Launch of the Soyuz U rocket with the Poisk MRM-2 is planned for this Tuesday, November 10 at 9:22:01 am EST, (14:22 GMT) from launch complex 17P32 Pad 1 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, in Kazakhstan. The launch window is five minutes.

The new module will launch with 2,204 pounds of cargo in the pressurized section. New Russian Orlan spacesuits, science equipment and life support equipment will get a ride to the orbiting outpost in space.

Docking to the Russian Zvezda module by the Poisk is targeted for Nov. 12 at 10:44 am EST, or 15:44 UTC. Docking will likely occur a few minutes earlier based on a successful rendezvous

Built by RSC Energia, the MRM-2 Poisk hardware will allow for a fourth Russian spacecraft to dock with station as the need for new equipment and fresh supplies increases with the end of the space shuttle program during the first half of the 2010's.

There are also attachment points for future science experiments which will need the vacuum of space.

There are 523 cubic-feet of pressurized volume aboard Poisk, of that 380 are habitable for the crew.

The 8-ton module has a hull diameter of 8 feet and a length of 13 feet and 3 inches.

On June 10th, two spacewalkers replaced a door in the forward section of Zvezda with a docking cone which will allow for Piosk's docking.

In May 2010, the MRM-1 will launch aboard shuttle Atlantis for docking to the space station. MRM-2 was completed ahead of schedule, thus it's launching was moved up in support of future docked operations.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Russia launches duel Canadian satellites today

A Russian Space Agency rocket successfully carried duel science payloads into a dark, foggy sky today and up into orbit, including a European satellite which will study the earth's soil and water values over the next few years.

The Canadian Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) science satellite and the Project for Onboard Autonomy (Proba-2) launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia aboard the Rockot ballistic missile at 1:50:01 UTC this morning (8:50 pm EST on November 1st).

Seventy minutes into the launch, the SMOS was the first to separate from the Rockot's upper stage known as Breeze KM at an altitude of 470 miles. The Breeze stage then manuvered into a lower orbit and at T+3 hours following launch, the Proba-2 then separated completing a successful launch.

SMOS will study future climate changes from it's perch in low earth orbit over the next three years. According to Canadian space officials, "(SMOS) is the first ever satellite designed both to map sea surface salinity and to monitor soil moisture on a global scale. It features a unique interferometric radiometer that will enable passive surveying of the water cycle between oceans, the atmosphere and land".

Meanwhile, the Proba-2 science payload is a multi-useful microsatellite carrying a set of four science intruments to study the Sun; a high technology camera with a wide angle view of about 120º; and test small sensors for future European Space Agency satellites.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

ESA Ariane 5 successfully launches satellites

A heavy-lift European launcher lifted-off today from South America on a flight which delivered two communications satellites into earth orbit -- and making it's sixth successful flight of the year.

The European Space Agency's Ariane 5 rocket launched on it's 48th flight at 4:00:07 pm EDT (5PM local time), from the Guiana Space Center as the Sun sat upon French Guiana.

Burning 1,300 tons of thrust, the Ariane 5 pushed its way up and out over the central Atlantic Ocean punching through a few cloud layers and into a darkening sky. The launch inclination was 5.98 degrees to the equator.

On board the mighty launcher making it's 34th successful launch in a row was the NSS-12 and Thor-6 communications satellites.

"This latest success confirms that Ariane 5 is the commercial market’s only operational launcher capable of simultaneously launching two large direct television broadcast satellites,” stated Arianespace CEO and chairman Jean-Yves Le Gall. “It also confirms that Arianespace is the only launch services company capable of orbiting four commercial satellites in four weeks – which I also think is a new record."

At 4:27 pm EDT, the NSS-12 seperated from the Ariane adapter connected to the upper stage as the vehicle flew over southeastern Africa.

The NSS-12 was built by space systems/Loral in California, and will service a large footprint from Europe to Asia to Australia with direct to home television services. NSS-12 will operate from 57 degrees East in geostationary orbit.

Later, at 4:31 pm, the Thor 6 separated from the upper stage some 1,060 miles above the western Indian Ocean.

The Thor-6 satellite -- the most powerful of the Thor fleet -- will provide television services to Europe using 36 ku-band transponders, and operating from a location at 1 degree East. Thor 6 will replace the failing Thor 3.

The seventh and final Ariane 5 flight of 2009 is currently targeted for December 2, and will loft two communications satellites into earth orbit.

NASA officially targets Nov. 16 for Atlantis launch

NASA and the space shuttle management team are meeting today to determine a new launch date for the next space shuttle flight, and the teams readiness to support its twelve day flight.

This morning, the NASA management team officially targeted Monday, November 16th as the new launch date for Atlantis to start it's resupply and equipment delivery mission to the International Space Station.

Launch time is currently set for 2:27:54 pm EST. The launch window is five minutes.

NASA worked out a deal with the United Launch Alliance to push back a Delta IV unmanned rocket from it's targeted launch date of Nov. 17th by a day to allow Atlantis an optional day in case the target date is scrubbed for 24 hours.

Later today, technicians here at the Kennedy Space Center will begin retracting the huge gantry structure which wraps and protects the orbiter from weather (above, today at 9:15 am), and allows workers access to the mid section of the space shuttle.

The rotating service structure will be moved back to allow for the STS-129 payload to arrive at the pad this evening and be installed for launch.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

VIDEO: Ares 1-X launches into the Future

Ares 1-X lifts-off today at 11:30 am EDT from KSC, FL.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ares 1-X rocket makes successful test flight

The world's tallest rocket set to carry America to the space station and beyond in 2015 launched into blue skies and into the next generation of space flight -- that is if the Obama administration provides the necessary funding.

Lift-off of the new Ares 1-X test flight from the Kennedy Space Center occurred at 11:30 am EDT today, following a two hour launch delay due to clouds and systems checks caused by several local lightning strikes the night before.

The launch team and technicians worked through a delayed countdown earlier this morning following some 150 lightning strikes which occurred within a five mile radius of Ares' launch pad 39-B overnight.

The countdown remained on hold at T-4 minutes through most of the four hour launch window. just when the launch team was ready to go at 10:45 am, Air Force meteorologist Kathy Winters at Cape weather called no-go due to a cloud in the area at launch time which could cause an electric condition known as triboelectrification.

Triboelectrification, by definition, is when electric discharge resulting from the accumulation of electric charge on an insulated body. So the launch team waited and continued to received updated weather reports from the air.

Once the white, brilliant candlestick cleared the launch tower at T+6 seconds, it's 2.6 million pounds of thrust forced Ares to rise sharply as it's solid fueled booster steered its "dummy" upper stage payload out over the Atlantic waters. At T+ two minutes and nine seconds, as the rocket booster's solid fuel expired, the upper stage separated on time and began it's decent into the waters off Cape Canaveral. Meanwhile, the rocket booster continued it's upward climb to an altitude of 29 miles caused by forward momentum.

Across the river from Cape Canaveral at Space View Park in north Titusville, a nice crowd gathered on a beautiful morning as the sun rose for the anticipated launch.

SpaceLaunch News publisher Mary Myers commented to this reporter on the turnout for a non-space shuttle flight, "It looks like people are still interested in the space program. People are turning out. Several of our local (Orlando) news channels are here, too."

In all the launch team has deemed this flight as a huge success, and will pour over all the data over the next year to make improvements and update designs as NASA now works to ready the next test flight, Ares 1-Y, in 2014.

Friday, October 23, 2009

NASA Go for Tuesday's Ares 1-X Test Flight

NASA and the launch team at the Kennedy Space Center are officially GO for launch of the test flight of the new Ares 1-X rocket on Tuesday morning, however the weather stands to delay launch based on the current forecast.

Ares I-X launch director, Ed Mango stated today, "It's great to be part of a team that put a rocket together in the time it took. The team is ready to go fly. The vehicle is ready to go fly."

But weather woes could force a launch day delay for NASA's new rocket which they are hoping will take America to the International Space Station following the space shuttle's retirement in 2010.

Launch of the Ares 1-X flight is set for Tuesday morning at 8:00 am EDT, from launch complex 39-B. The launch window is four hours. If weather violates launch morning flight rules, NASA then has launch opportunities on both Wednesday and Thursday to try again.

Launch morning will begin at 1AM EDT, at the T-7 hour mark. There is only one hold in this countdown at the T-4 minute mark. Meteorologists from Cape Weather will launch a weather balloon to collect upper atmosphere data.

As the countdown moves along, more weather balloons will be launched and the rocket will begin to come to life as avionics and recorders are powered up. At 7:36 am, the countdown will hold for 20 minutes at the T-4 minute point. During those 20 minutes, launch director Ed Mango will poll the team to ensure the readiness to proceed. Listen for key "Go's" from both weather officer Kathy Winters and Range Safety during the poll.

In the final minute of the count, the SRB auxiliary power units will be started; final navigation software updates will be uploaded; and a final gimbal check of the SRB thrust nozzles will be performed.

Once Ares 1-X clears the launch tower at T+6 seconds, it will fly up to an altitude of 130,000 feet before the second stage separates from the solid rocket boosters first stage.

Following a successful flight test by the Ares 1-X, a second test flight - Ares 1-Y - is currently targeted for mid-2014. On the heels of that successful flight, the third test flight, Orion 1, will see a full compliment of the Ares 1 vehicle, including five segment SRB and a real uncrewed Orion crew module.

This first test flight is a large step toward understanding the groundwork in getting Ares 1 into delivering humans to space by 2015.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

White House Panel Outlines what NASA should consider

The Augustine Committee released it's report on the future of American spaceflight today, as NASA and it's partners turn the corner into a new decade of space flight in the coming months.

NASA sits perched on a mountain top with a beautiful nest in International Space Station, and the white dove of the space shuttle about to have it's wings clipped late next year. So what in fact does NASA do?

Based on 2010 and future funding, how long can the international space partners continue to fund the station program, and will the new Constellation program reach new heights as technicians move it off the drawing boards and onto the launch pad?

Led by panel chairman Norman Augustine, the White House panel spent 2009 interviewing key members from the highest to the lowest ranks within NASA to determine a positive route for the American space program during the 2010's and beyond.

Click Here to view in .pdf the full report of the Augustine commission's findings.

We at SpaceLaunch News urge you to take 15 minutes to read most of it and digest what you read. Please comment below your thoughts as we hear from you, too. Thank-you.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ares 1-X rocket gets connected to Pad 39-B

A few great NASA-KSC digital images of the new Ares 1-X rocket at it's launch pad at midday today. The rocket is taller than those flying around the globe today, and stands over 100 feet taller than the space shuttle.

A New White Candlestick Shines on Pad 39-B

After over three years of planning and construction, a brilliant white candle stick shines a top launch pad 39-B at this hour.

Under gray clouds and a brisk wind, the future of America's space flight arrived at it's ocean side launch pad this morning as it prepares for lift-off next week.

The Ares 1-X vehicle a top the mobile launcher platform was officially hard down a top launch pad 39-B at 9:17 am EDT today. Over the next few hours, pad technicians worked to connect the rocket to power sources and connect a stabilization collar near the upper mid section. Upcoming at about 12:40 pm, the rotating service structure will be moved around the rocket as it helps provide weather protection and access to avionics sections, too.

The candlestick's 4.2 mile slow trek from the massive Vehicle Assembly Building out to Pad 39-B was the first time a non-space shuttle stack has occupied the pad. Launch pad 39-B has launched such notable flights as the Apollo 10 lunar orbital flight; Apollo 18 which linked up with the Russian Soyuz in 1975; and the ill-fated Challenger launch in 1986.

Launch of the Arex 1-X remains set for this Tuesday morning, October 27, at 8AM EDT. If lift-off is scrubbed, NASA's Kennedy Space Center launch team have both Oct. 28 and 29th booked on the eastern test range.

Future of American Human Spaceflight Debuts

The future of the American human space flight program debuted early this morning as a new, white 327-foot rocket began it's roll out to the launch pad to prepare for a new decade of space travel.

First motion of the crawler transport carrying the Ares 1-X rocket began at 1:39 am EDT, this morning -- 98 minutes later than planned due to this being the first rollout of this new rocket.

The 1.8 million pound rocket inched at a slow rate as it traveled the 4.2 miles from high bay 3 in the massive Vehicle Assembly Building out to launch pad 39-B this morning.

On Thursday, the Ares 1-X launch team in firing room 1 will run through a practice countdown in preparation for the launch test.

The Ares 1-X launch is set for 8AM EDT on Tuesday, October 27th. The launch window will last four hours.

After Ares 1-X clears the tower six seconds following launch, it will head east and fly up to 28 miles before separating it's first stage booster rocket some 244 statue miles down range.

The future of the new Constellation program calls for the next unmanned flight, Ares 1-Y, in 2014, and a third test flight called Orion 1 which will see the module achieve orbit shortly after 1-Y's success.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Atlantis' launch delayed due to Ares 1-X, Atlas

A series of events in the final days of October has forced NASA to delay November's launch of the next space shuttle flight as it accommodates two unmanned rocket launches from Cape Canaveral.

According to NASA spokesperson Kyle Herring at the Johnson Space Center, "Ares is priority". Herring today broke down with this reporter most of what the next few weeks will look like at Cape Canaveral.

The main cause in delaying shuttle Atlantis Nov. 12 mission to the International Space Station is Tuesday morning's roll out of the Ares 1-X out to launch pad 39-B. Due to the Ares move, NASA today scrubbed the the next two days of training sessions by the crew out at the adjacent pad 39-A. Atlantis' crew will return to the Space Coast in early November to perform the practice countdown simulation in which they suit up and board the shuttle.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V has the eastern test range for a midnight launch on November 14th. NASA had spent the last two weeks battling for a Nov. 12 & 13 launch attempts, but Atlas' launch customer held firm and would not stand down to NASA.

Launch of Atlantis has been retargeted for 2:28 pm EST on November 16th. However, that date will not be made official until a managers meeting on Oct. 28. Also, a Delta IV is on the range to launch on the evening of Nov. 18. If Delta IV launches on time, then NASA will have only one launch day in which to fly Atlantis -- Nov. 20 -- before a sun angle beta cutout for Station forces a delay until Dec. 6.

Commanded by Charles Hobaugh, Atlantis' crew of six includes pilot Barry E. Wilmore and mission specialists Robert L. Satcher, Mike Foreman, Randy BResnik and Leland Melvin.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

VIDEO: Atlas 5 launches today

Atlas V California launch at 9:12 am PDT on October 18, 2009.

Atlas V launch milestone occurs in foggy California

On a foggy morning today, America's 600th launch of an Atlas rocket occurred on time from Vandenberg, AFB in California on military weather satellite delivery flight.

The first minutes of the 9:12 am EDT (12:12 pm EDT) launch was normal as the United Launch Alliance Atlas V carried the Air Force’s Defense Meteorological Satellite Program F18, DMSP F18, into geostationary orbit.

"This mission is absolutely critical to the warfighter," stated Colonel Steven Winters today following the DMSP's orbital arrival. "Thanks to the hard work and dedication of this team, our fellow service members and allies around the world can carry out their missions with the best weather data available."

The DMSP F18 launched into a polar orbit of 463 nautical miles with an orbital period of 101 minutes each revolution. This new era weather satellite is a space based weather observation platform for the U.S. military and will aid in operation forecast for maneuvers.

Today's Atlas V launch is the 600th launch since the first Atlas lifted-off from Cape Canaveral Air Station in 1957. That Atlas A was a testbed for future Atlas missions. Last month, Vandenberg celebrated their 50th year launching Atlas. On September 9, 1959, the California launch team launched an Atlas 12D rocket.

"This is a proud moment in the 52 year history of the Atlas program and for United Launch Alliance,” said Mark Wilkins, ULA vice president, Atlas Product Line. “First, I want to thank our Air Force customer for trusting ULA to launch this important mission. I’d also like to recognize all the men and women who have served on the Atlas team since 1957. Their determination, dedication and attention to detail have made this significant milestone possible."

According to Vandenberg's 30th Space Wing, "the DMSP payload will be managed by the National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration satellite control center (Maryland), with support from the 6th Space Operations Squadron, an all Air Force Reserve unit stationed out of Schriever AFB, Colorado."

copyright 1998 - 2010 Charles Atkeison, All rights reserved.